July 28, 2007 - My Scrambler Story
By Ted Hinkle, original owner, 1969 Scrambler.
Purchased April 25, 1969.
I first learned about the AMC Scrambler in December of 1968 when I read an advertisement on the back of “Hot Rod” magazine. The car had everything I wanted and more! The late 60’s was a time when new Interstate Highways were opening almost monthly, speed limits were 70 – 80 MPH and speed was king. Gas was 30 cents per gallon, the freeways were wide open with very little traffic, and radar was a rarity. This car would go fast, handle nicely, and stop on a dime! I had to have it!
By this time, I was already driving my fourth AMC and I was only 20 years old! I learned to drive on my Dad’s 1962 Ambassador with the 327 2V engine and push button automatic. My mother had a 1960 American, and when I was a Junior in High School, I purchased my Grandpa’s Hibiscus Rose and Pink 1959 Rambler Custom for $300. After the tranny went out on my 59, I purchased a rusty, but quick 59 Ambassador, which had the 270 HP 327 with overdrive for $50.00.
When I was home from Tri-State College during Christmas of 1968, I stopped by “Young Motor Sales”, the AMC dealer in Tipton, Indiana to inquire about the Scrambler. The dealer claimed that he had never heard of the Scrambler, but would check into it. A couple of days later, he called to tell me that all of the Scramblers were sold out and that he would not be getting one. Then, after a few more days, he called to tell me that he could get one if I ordered it today. I said “sure”, I’ll take it!
During this time, I was not working, doing poorly in school (probably spent more time reading “Hot Rod” that my school books), and had about $200 to my name. In January of 1969, I enlisted into the Army and on March 19, I was inducted into the Army at age 20 in Indianapolis.
On April 25, 1969, while I was stationed at Ft Polk, LA., my Scrambler arrived at the AMC dealer in Tipton. (The dealer persuaded my dad to leave the car in his showroom for a couple of weeks to show it off!). The cost of my Scrambler, including tax (no transportation charge in those days) was $3052.94. I purchased the car on a three year installment loan of $103 per month. In basic training I was making about $145 per month, but my meals and barracks were included!
In May of 1969, I was assigned to my next duty station at Ft Walters, TX for primary helicopter training. My class was delayed for about a week, so I immediately left on leave back to Indiana. When I first saw my Scrambler, I thought: “hey, this doesn’t look like the picture” (mine was the B paint). But when I got in and set behind the steering wheel, I knew that this was “all Scrambler”. I later asked the dealer about my paint scheme, and was informed that the first 500 had quickly sold out and that this (B scheme) is “how they’re coming now”.
I drove my Scrambler back to Texas and drove the car all during flight school (mostly on weekends). After primary flight training, I was transferred to Ft Rucker, Alabama for the remainder of my training. One evening on the post, while stopped at a stop sign, I was hit in the rear by a Colonel’s wife who had had a few too many martinis. I quickly inspected the damage to my Scrambler only to find a slight dent in the bumper.
And because I was only a WOC (Warrant Officer Candidate), I told her “don’t worry about it”. I never did change the bumper and the small ding still reminds me of that evening.
While at Ft Rucker, I changed my rear end to the 2:87 to 1 ratio for additional top speed. (I was still a rookie Scrambler mechanic and did not realize that the gear was a little “tall” for the application) However, the 2:87 did perform well for cruising the interstates!
After graduation, my dad and I drove my Scrambler from Ft Rucker, Alabama to Tipton, Indiana. (We had dropped my mother off at Natchez, Mississippi to catch a flight back home). It was a fast trip home in the Scrambler, mostly 80 to 90 MPH, although I drove 100 to 110 MPH between Memphis and Nashville as the speed limit was 80 MPH on I-40!
I remember a troublesome white Cadillac that would catch up to me at 100 MPH and I would have to punch it to shake him. I would then slow down to 100 MPH and he would again catch up. After a few repetitions of this game, I kindly let him pass. A few miles later, I saw a cop waiting to snag a speeder. Luckily, I was going only 90 when I passed his location. I never saw the Cadillac again.
When we arrived home in Tipton that evening (the same day), my brother was dumbfounded. He had just returned from the airport with my mother. How could we be home already!!!
I accumulated 18,000 miles on my Scrambler during the first year. I had the emergency brake handle replaced under warranty in Texas and the windshield replaced (cracked) under warranty in Tipton, Indiana. For an additional $10, the dealer installed a tinted windshield.
On May 2, 1970, I put my Scrambler in storage in “Callahan’s Garage” in Tipton. On May 4th, I arrived in sunny Saigon, Vietnam and was quickly assigned to the 25th Infantry Division where I flew Huey’s. This was the new, more powerful “H model Huey”, a utility helicopter that became the backbone of supply and transportation for the Army. I accumulated 870 combat hours in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos and was shot down twice. But, for the grace of God, I was never wounded!
On May 5, 1971, I returned home from Vietnam! The war did change me as I was a little “wild” when I returned and I was still dependant on the booze that I used to calm my nerves during the war. It took me several years to “unwind” and forget the trauma that I had experienced.
During the mid 70’s, I was a Cable TV contractor and drove a 1972 Ford van for work and basic transportation, which gave me a chance to work on my Scrambler. In 1973, I had Jeg’s of Columbus, Ohio modify my Scrambler engine with 11.7:1 Jahn’s pistons, balance & blueprint, solid lifter cam, and a Holly 850. This “screaming” engine would turn 7300 RPM, although I shifted at 7 grand! I also installed 4.44:1 gears to help launch the car off the line.
With 8 inch slicks, my best quarter mile time was 12.00 seconds at 98 MPH. I remember the run: I was in the left lane at Bunker Hill Drag track, (north of Kokomo, Indiana) and a red and black 396 Chevelle with a tunnel ram, dual carbs and 12 inch slicks was in the right lane. I came out at 6500 RPM’s with a near perfect hole shot! I left the Chevy in my dust! Only near the end of the quarter mile did he come close to me. I beat the Chevy by three car lengths.
In 1974, my 390 was starting to make unwanted noises, so my buddy, Ed Eberts, and I took the engine down to find that the keepers had failed in three piston wrist pins and the wrist pins had damaged the cylinder walls beyond repair. We found a 1971 401 block and had that built with 12.5:1 pistons. This was a fast engine, but the best quarter mile time was only 12.4 seconds.
By 1976, I had moved to Racine, Wisconsin and drove my Scrambler sparingly, as the price of gas had almost doubled to $0.56 per gallon. In 1977, the left head gasket blew out, so I decided to have the engine rebuilt again. Turbo Charging was becoming popular, so I decided to install 8.5:1 pistons to accommodate the additional boost. On August 5, 1977, my Scrambler was back together with the newly rebuilt engine and the odometer registering 26030 miles. I also changed out the 4.44:1 gears and installed 3.15:1 for better cruising and put on new BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s. . I installed an 8-Track player to listen to my favorite Creedence, BS&T, and Beatles 8-tracks.
In 1979, I purchased my first house and money was tight. I never Turbo Charged the Scrambler. However, I did have a smooth and powerful, cool running engine and with the 8.5:1 pistons, pump gas was never a problem.
From 1977 through 1979, I logged 9,067 miles, mostly in Wisconsin, but with trips to Columbus, Ohio and Indiana. By September of 1980, gas hit $1.14 per gallon and I was ridding my new Kawasaki 1300 cycle more and more.
On June 26, 1982, I was married and the Scrambler was our “get-a-way” car; decorated with wedding streamers, painted windows, and a train of cans tied to the bumper. After the wedding, I was persuaded by the by-standers to do my typical mega burnout as we left. As the smoke cleared, we rode off into the sunset to prepare for our honeymoon!
By 1982, I had logged 36,160 miles. Now in 2007, I have 39,960 miles showing. That’s only 3,800 miles in 25 years! I have driven to many AMC car shows in the area, but also trailered the Scrambler to shows in St Louis, Springfield, Ohio, and Minneapolis.